Where and How to Sell Your Indie Game

Jay Powell

Steam, and that’s as far as many companies think. Now we have the Epic store, Microsoft's store and there are several additional marketplaces that indie teams need to take into account. Let’s first look at “why”.

Discoverability: Steam is over-crowded and not curated well. Every year there are more games released and that is not going to change. More releases means more competition and less time on the front page of the store. Let’s look at the last four years.

Total releases:

  • 2015: 2,525
  • 2016: 4,789
  • 2017: 7,136
  • 2018: 9,050
  • 2019: 8,018
  • 2020: 7,963 (through October 30)

Brand Awareness: When you can get your game in front of as many people as possible you create a “rising tide” effect across all your stores. The more it is seen, the more it will be purchased. That’s obvious. But you also need to remember that good visibility will also lead to more streamers playing the game. By widening your market you are increasing your brand awareness. Not only in this game, but all the games you produce. This will also make it easier to get better placement in sales and be invited to bundles down the road.

Revenue: Obvious, right? Then why don’t more companies do this? Expanding your distribution not only increases your day 1 sales, but it adds to the long tail of your game. Most indie games are doing to do the majority of their sales in the first and second month. It will benefit you down the road and keep revenue trickling in while you work on the next game.

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So where should you be selling?

Why isn't everyone doing this?

It takes work, and time, and you’re not going to see an immediate benefit. Indie teams are constantly crunched for time, resources are valuable, and managing sales is a lot of work. It is worth it in the long haul though. There are ways to manage this though. I used to manage the deployment of games to over 30 online stores back in the hey-day of hidden object games so I know it can be done.

Here's what you do:

  • Reach out to a representative at each store. Introduce your game and tell them you would like to sell it there. This is mainly to build a relationship as most stores have their requirements laid out on the site.
  • Compile what each site needs (including Steam) and create a master “package” list of the assets you’ll need. It’s much easier to build one set of files internally and give each site more than they need than it is to rebuild the files to every store.
  • Upload everything they need.
  • FOLLOW UP! You need to follow up with the stores. Ask if there is anything else you can do to help or if there is any additional materials you can send them.

Stay in touch past launch. This part is key. Staying top of mind with the rep at your store will help ensure you get invited to, and prime placement, in sales. Yes, some sales you can enter into through the system directly, but not all of them. The better relationship you have with the stores, the better off you will be in the long run.

Additional Resources

"The State of Indie Game Publishing"

with Fernando Rizo

"Where and How To Sell Your Indie Game"

With Jay Powell

"New Distribution Platforms For Indie Developers"

with Larry Kuperman

About The Author

Jay has successfully negotiated and closed countless deals for licensing, development and distribution over the past 20 years. His consulting firm, The Powell Group, focuses on building positive relationships between various forms of media and the game space, and helping a wide variety of clients succeed in the video game industry. The firm tracks over 4,000 developers and another 750+ publishers globally. In 2018 he founded the "IndieGameBusiness" initiative which produces both a weekly podcast and hosts multiple virtual business conferences each year.